Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Visits of Saudi officials to Egypt or Egyptian officials to the Kingdom are a routine thing since the day King Abdul Aziz laid the foundations of modern-day Saudi Arabia.
However, in view of the current regional situation the ongoing visit of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to Egypt has gained historical importance.
Since the eruption of the so-called Arab Spring, almost the entire Arab world, including Egypt, has been facing immense problems.
It has been a very long time since the so-called Arab Spring took a hold in many countries and Egypt experienced the most chaotic period of its modern-day history. Egypt is a country with a lot of population and when things in Egypt start shaking for any reasons, then, the whole area is under threat. Saudi Arabia’s strategic relation with Egypt was seen and felt by the Egyptians for many years. Saudi Arabia stood by Egypt in many of its old time hardship. It was Saudi economic, military and investments in Egypt that had helped the country to come out of its many difficult times.
King Salman’s visit to Egypt has political, strategic and economic importance for both countries and the area. Both countries will benefit from the many strategic agreements that were singed by both King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi that would strengthen the two countries alliance. These agreements include not only economic cooperation or investments, but will also be of strategic importance to Egypt and the area. One of the agreements was to expedite the development of Sinai Peninsula, which covers a very large area of Egypt, but is only the home of less than a million of the total Egyptian population of 90 million. It is an area that was lacking many basic developments and infrastructure. Most dangerously, Sinai became in the past few years a sanctuary of terrorist groups and outlaws. Saudi investments in Sinai will make it a very developed area with millions of Egyptians living there and thus easing the areas along the Nile River.
On the second day of the visit, King Salman announced the intention of building a bridge over the Red Sea. A connection between the two countries in the form of a bridge will definitely elevate the strategic bonding to new levels. The announcement came at a time when many analysts doubted the continuation of developments on the Egyptian side.
Just a few years ago, many politicians and analysts were forecasting economic woes and internal instability for Egypt, but it was Saudi Arabia’s siding with Egypt that gave many the hope and assurance of stability in Egypt. Saudi Arabia stood by Egypt during the many days of the Arab Spring, but, it was Saudi Arabia that took the lead to stand by Egypt and the Egyptians. And during that time, there was a political vacuum that could have resulted in more disturbances in the area and especially Egypt.
Saudi Arabia took many steps to help protect Egypt from the violent political unrest with massive financial aids and backing. This helped Egypt stand on its feet and stabilize its currency and get back the trust of the outside world.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt are both the main pillars of stability and prosperity in the region. Their strength might be a big factor in bringing peace and stability to the Middle East. The visit is a strong signal to any outside forces that might be willing to take advantage of the past political vacuum. Iran is one force that was challenging the area through its meddling into the internal affairs of some countries in the area. But, the Saudi and Egyptian strategic closeness will deter any outside forces from carrying out their evil designs in the area. Saudi Arabia stood by Egypt in the past and it will do in the future.
The visit by King Salman to Egypt will in the near future bring back stability in the region. And people in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the region and the world will remember King Salman, as the 5-day landmark visit is bound to change the geopolitical map of the Middle East.
Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Taking Saudi-Egypt Ties to New Heights reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.